BY FREDRICA WAGMAN
When Playing House appeared in 1973, Publishers Weekly hailed it, "A probing descent into madness that will fascinate the same audience that appreciated I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." This nationally bestselling story of one woman’s struggle with the lasting effects of a childhood sexual relationship with her brother shocked American readers; it remains a literary work of enduring quality and value. In his foreword Philip Roth writes, "The traumatized child; the institutionalized wife; the haunting desire; the ghastly business of getting through the day -- what is striking about Wagman's treatment of these contemporary motifs is the voice of longing in which the heroine shamelessly confesses to the incestuous need that is at once her undoing and her only hope."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
My name is Fredrica Wagman, but it wasn't always. I started out as Riki Barris, "Riki" being short for Rita Fredrica, born in 1940 in Philadelphia where I spent the first four years of my life in my grandparents home with my mother and father and my older brother. It was a great sprawling place where there were maids and my baby-nurse, big cars, a devoted chauffer by the name of I.J. Duckett, and the warmth of aunts and uncles and my grandparents all around us all the time whom I adored.
When I was four we moved into our own small house which was very hard on my mother who was used to all the space and all the help that everyone there could provide. My mother became quite depressed when we moved away from my grandparents and a hard time ensued after that for my brother and me. My father was a dentist, an oral surgeon who specialized in extracting teeth which was a kind of speciality in those days, although barbers were proported to have been doing it for years without all the training and all the honors my father collected at the University of Pennsylvania's dental school.
I attended schools first in the suburbs of Philadelphia and then in the city which was where we moved when I was eleven years old. I was married at a very early age, shamefully early, to Howard Wagman. Had five children, lost one, attended the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College after the children were born, and was writing fiction and poetry for as long as I can remember.
Fredrica Wagman is the author of six novels — Playing House, His Secret Little Wife, Mrs. Hornstien, Peachy, and Magic Man, Magic Man —and The Lie, just released in April 2009.
PLAYING HOUSE is a book that I started a few times before I could actually feel emotionally stable enough to read and handle. When I did, I found a story told from the main character's point of view, in which she becomes involved at a young age in an incestuous relationship with her brother. This "relationship" starts out being non-consensual but grows into something that is more than that as the main character longs for the closeness that she experiences with him and it goes on to take over her adult life as well.
As children, you wonder how they kept this secret from everyone, and even if the mother doesn't exactly know what is going on, why she didn't do something about her suspicions anyway? It may have to do with the fact that the son was the favorite in the family, being so spoiled that he could do nothing wrong in their eyes. Even though he is cruel and temperamental, he always gets his way which is evident if by nothing else than the unnatural relationship with the sister.
Oddly enough, however, is that the sister still loved him and even after he is gone and she is married, his influence and her feelings don't seem to change but instead seem to color her world later on as well. All this of course creates problems in her marriage to say the least. Her spiraling into an almost kind of madness is not hard to predict or believe.
This is a short book you can read in one sitting literally but one that you may not be able to because of the intense and disturbing subject matter. Many will find it so fascinating and well written that they zip through it but I was not one of them. I will say however that the author does write really well even though I found the subject matter just too dark for me. The emotions were honest and raw and I found they were hard for me to deal with but I forged ahead and finished the book.
While I realize that not all stories can be tied up in a bow with a happy ending, this one left me with but one positive (?) thought, and that was it would be a good choice for a brave book club as it lends itself to a lot of discussion. It was a novel I won't long forget as much as I would like to but it just was too disturbing for me. I guess I am a more simplistic reader and it isn't that I don't like a book that creates a buzz and need for discussion but this one was just too hard for me to like enough to want to talk about it. Just in my personal opinion, I love a story that makes you think and want to discuss it with others. However, this book was just not my cup of tea as I feel life is hard enough and to interject this kind of subject matter into my discussions with friends and colleagues did not appeal to me. I would prefer to discuss thought provoking stories that are just a little less intense at this point in my life. But in no way should that color your desire to read this book as that is merely my personal opinion. This book is highly acclaimed and recommended by many literary experts and reviewers so I guess you just have to read it to make up your mind as to what group you fall into.
I HAVE TWO COPIES OF THIS THOUGHT
PROVOKING BOOK TO GIVE AWAY
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HOW TO ENTER:
+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON MY REVIEW AS TO HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT BOOKS WITH UNCOMFORTABLE SUBJECT MATTER...PART OF YOUR LIFE, OR NOT, AND WHY
6 PM, EST, OCTOBER 11
---THAT'S TOMORROW AND WHY
IT IS A "SPEEDY GIVEAWAY"!!